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Silent bells and mirages: no taxonomy of law-department-management (LDM) concepts

The young hero of Polar Express did not believe, until he heard Santa’s bell. I used to believe there would appear a conceptual tidiness about LDM concepts, something like the periodic table of elements, or a Euclidean proof, a tight syllogism or a polished outline with neat levels. A hope, so to speak, for some order to technology, diversity, outside counsel whip-cracking, promotions and pay, the chaos of structure, etc. etc.; more, some hierarchy to those concepts, and maybe, just maybe an axiomatic primal level – the management quark of the in-house legal function.

My bell hasn’t rung. Try as I might, through efforts such as this blog’s categories and my consulting projects, I can’t pin down a primum mobile, a sina qua non, a ne plus ultra (English fails me), a pattern for the concepts and practices. The McKinsey 7S model (See my post of Aug. 28, 2005) or Booze Allen’s organizational DNA (See my post of Feb. 16, 2005) don’t do it. If I venture that “It all comes down to people,” I feel foolish.

Maybe when I reach 2,000 posts the inductive process will clarify the framework for law department management. Maybe at 5,000 posts. Maybe never, because, while I think we can understand bits and pieces better, the blooming buzzing confusion of law departments, with their emergent properties, their contingencies, and most of all those pesky human beings, will push away the mirage for a long, long time.